Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Domestic Violets

Summary: Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he’d have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day. 

The reality, though, is far different. He’s got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he’s written a novel, but the manuscript he’s slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh . . . and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety. 

Tom’s life is crushing his soul, but he’s decided to do something about it. (Really.) Domestic Violets is the brilliant and beguiling story of a man finally taking control of his own happiness—even if it means making a complete idiot of himself along the way. -- Harper Perennial

I learned about so many great books at this year's BEA, but one that captured my interest was DOMESTIC VIOLETS by Matthew Norman. I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Norman a few times that week -- at Harper Collins' party and an autograph signing; and I was rather charmed by him. Needless to say, I was very excited to read his book. (Actually, anytime I actually meet an author, I always want to read their book!) Plus, there was a great deal of buzz surrounding the book and the book's description made it sound like one that I'd enjoy. Little did I know how much I would love this book!

And love it I did! I didn't just read this book, I devoured it. I honestly couldn't put it down, and I was resentful of any event that got in the way of my reading. It only took a few pages for me to be seriously hooked on DOMESTIC VIOLETS, but I have to admit that it caught my attention from the first few paragraphs:

"I splash cold water on my face.
This is what men in movies do when they're about to fly off the handle, when shit is getting out of control. I do this sometimes. I react to things based on what characters in movies would do. That's kind of ironic, considering I've always thought of myself as a book person."

I was immediately hooked with the tone and writing... and it only got better. (Not to mention the main character was a book person!) Mr. Norman managed to write a book that I found to be highly entertaining. It was absolutely one of the funniest books I've ever read -- the first few pages had me belly-laughing. Yet it also touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Believe me when I tell you that this book never let me down. I loved the characters, their actions, and the writing. And DOMESTIC VIOLETS is sure to be one of my favorite books of the year! I've been raving about it to anyone and everyone who will listen!

First and foremost, I absolutely loved Tom Violet. He's a middle-aged man (although I'd like to think he's a few years shy of middle-age considering he's younger than I am!) who is having a bit of a crisis. His life isn't what he expected and he's wondering what it all means. He has marriage and sexual issues, his career is far from fulfilling, he hasn't had his first novel published, and he's having to cope with his larger-than-life father's recent Pulitzer Prize. All in all, Tom's life is a mess. But he knows it... and isn't that a good beginning to fixing things?

Tom Violet is such a wonderful character because he is so incredibly honest. I can pretty much guarantee that he'll make you laugh with his self-deprecating humor, but I also think readers will be able to relate to him on so many levels. Maybe not in the specific details of his life, but what middle-aged person hasn't looked at where they are in their life and what they have accomplished and haven't had a few regrets? What I found so admirable about Tom is that he decided to make changes to his life... and by the end of the book, he does. I was rooting for Tom throughout the entire story, even when he was heading towards sure-fire disasters; and I was so satisfied with how much Tom evolved by the end of the novel. 

Another wonderful thing about this book was the writing. I just loved Mr. Norman's writing style and I think he did a marvelous job of capturing Tom's unique voice. I was also extremely impressed with just how funny this book was -- I'm talking hilarious. I could picture Tom and the other characters perfectly and I was so caught up in their stories. In fact, I could so see DOMESTIC VIOLETS as a movie! But I also enjoyed how much this novel touched my heart. There were so many scenes that caused me to think about my life, my relationships, and the keys to my happiness. And I truly appreciated that this book not only entertained me, but also made me think!

I could go on and on about so many more terrific things in this novel, but I encourage you to discover this book on your own. I don't think my review can do it justice! However, I do want to share how much I appreciated many of the messages in this story. While Tom was definitely trying to figure things out in his life, especially as they pertained to his marriage, career, and his father, he went through some difficult times. He didn't always make the "right" choices, but all of the decisions he made -- both good and bad -- made him into an honorable man. I loved that this book showed that we are in charge of our lives and our happiness, and that we have the power to make things right!

I'm sure you can tell by now that I think DOMESTIC VIOLETS is a perfect book club pick! I sure hope lots of clubs pick it in the upcoming months because I'd love to see the quality discussion that might come from reading it. There is a reading guide available with twelve terrific questions. Some of the topics you might want to explore include marriage, commitment, adultery, family dynamics, secrets, forgiveness, parenting, father/son relationships, choices, dreams, and many more! I also think it would be interesting to discuss the ending of the novel -- whether it was satisfying or now. I admit that I saw what was coming (although I don't know if I'd go so far as to say it was predictable), and I still loved it!

I'm guess I'm done gushing, although I still feel as if I've only begun to touch upon the many wonderful things about DOMESTIC VIOLETS. I strongly encourage you to read this book and then talk about it with friends!


blog said...

I've been thinking more about this book since I read and reviewed it, and I keep coming back to one thought, that you also touched on.

I love how unabashedly middle-aged this book is. It addresses so many of those issues that arise after a certain age, after a certain point in a career or a marriage.

I think that's a big part of why the book resonated so much with me, even if the details didn't resemble my life at all.

How exciting that you had the chance to meet the author at BEA-- I agree that meeting an author really encourages me to read their books!

Rachel said...

I just got this book from Amazon Vine in the mail yesterday - I was excited when I saw it was one of the choices. I can't wait to read it!

Kaye said...

WOW! Sounds like I need to put this one on the list immediately! Glad you enjoyed it so much. It's not easy finding books that touch your heart and give you deep belly laughs. great review!

bermudaonion said...

I just finished it last night and loved it too. At first I thought it was just going to be humorous and was thrilled when I discovered it was much deeper than I expected. I can't wait to see what Norman comes up with next.

Serena said...

I really had hoped to attend the fun event in VA when he came to town, but unfortunately, with a baby and one car, that was impossible. This book has been on my wish list for ages it seems.

Thanks for the awesome review and reaffirming my need to read this.

Beth Hoffman said...

What a terrific review! I've had this book on my list since I first heard about it.

lsl_scrapper said...

Great review! I've been seeing this book pop up on a lot of blogs lately and wondering about it. I will have to read it and see if it's something my book club might be interested in.
Time 2 Read

Alison's Book Marks said...

Great review! Ok, that's it, I have to read it now.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Someone is sending this to me - I'm very excited to read it (so I won't be The Only One in the Universe Who Hasn't Read It)

iwriteinbooks said...

I keep waiting for someone to hate this. I adored it and I’m so happy that it’s been just an all around crowd pleaser. It was a LOT funnier and a lot sadder than I thought it would be. I kept folding down pages and taking notes and really connecting with it. I found a lot of resonance in it even though I’ve always worked at very small companies in the past and currently work in the curriculum department at a teeny tiny school. Even without the same Office Space like experience, I think I found enough to connect with here that was simply a reflection of human life. Wow, didn’t mean to write this much. Simply put, I loved it and am glad that everyone else seems to be enjoying it as well!

reviewsbylola said...

I have yet to read a bad review for this one. I hope to read it ASAP!

Sandy Nawrot said...

OK, so you are like the 40th person to review this and love this, and here I sit all feeling sorry for myself. Have you read "This is Where I Leave You" or "The Financial Lives of the Poets"? Both sound very similar to this one...middle aged man in a crisis, pee your pants funny, a little bit of poignant musings on life. This kind of fiction trips my trigger.

Beth F said...

Isn't it great??? I love it when the buzz about a book really holds up.

Meg said...

"Believe me when I tell you that this book never let me down."

Oh, I'm so with you! The premise wasn't one that would necessarily grab me, but I took a friend's recommendation to heart and absolutely loved this book. Norman is my new author crush, and Tom Violet -- even with all his idiosyncrasies (or because of them?)-- was fabulous.

Amy said...

I agree 100%! What a fantastic book this is! I love love love it! It is definitely one of my favorites of the year!